Casting about

Casting about

Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 22 January 2019

This past weekend the weather gods served up a “can’t miss” opportunity. Our South Florida weather has been rather benign of late: dry sunny days with high temperatures approaching 80 F, cool nights, and little wind. Saturday night that was all expected to change, dramatically. The strongest cold front of the season was expected to come through and usher us into our version of semi-tropical winter. But Saturday during daylight hours was expected to stay the recent path: a last opportunity before things changed. It was also a curious moon phase: full moon and at perigee – meaning strong, almost extreme, tides.

I headed out in one of my canoes, solo, to check on the snook status. The upcoming drop in water temperatures will pack the backcountry with snook, but some early birds should already be back there. And, since the weather has been gentle, they likely would not be in their semi-hibernation lethargy yet.

It turned out to be a glorious day and almost all of my expectations were met. I caught a lot of juvenile snook, a few decent mature individuals, and I had my hat handed to me by the few larger ones of the day. That is about as good as it gets, for me anyway, especially since many of the better ones were caught or lost while sight casting.


What really stood out for me from the trip were some observations that I made about my fly casting. Not all were good, but they all give me something to think about, try to improve, and if nothing else, a reason to laugh at myself.


The first thing, the good news, was how I am progressing with casting with my other hand. Early on, when I was anchored up in a spot that I have almost always found some fish, but never scored, I found that I had put myself in a position where my normal backcast was restricted by mangroves. By switching hands I was able to present the fly where I had intended. Throughout the day I had other situations where casting with my left hand was necessary. Many times it was due to a rather strong wind from a dangerous direction if using my right. I am not suggesting that I can cast as well with my left hand as my right, nowhere close, but the possibility of getting a somewhat decent cast with either hand is much more of a luxury than I ever expected.


Other instances where my casting ability was highlighted were not so positive. On another occasion, when I was anchored up and looking into a shallow shoreline that was in the lee of the wind, I spotted two nice snook slowly cruising along in the crystal clear but tannin stained water. I had plenty of time to plan my presentation, but I then went ahead and hit the lead fish right on the head. That seldom works unless you are trying to give the fish a heart attack. The exasperating thing is I do it all the time! When practicing, I can put a fly or fluff inside a target ring more often than not, but that seems to be part of my problem. When presenting a fly to a cruising fish, the fly needs to lead the fish so that the fly is in its path, at the right depth, and most critically, when the fly moves it must not even hint at attacking. After spotting a fish I mentally try to decipher where that intersection point may be, and then pick a spot on the water where I want the fly to land. If that location has no discernable target, which is more likely than not, for some reason I subconsciously always cast to the obvious hard target… the fish. I’m not one for casting competition, but I can almost guarantee if a stuffed fish were placed outside the ring I would not have a chance.


On another occasion, when I again spotted two snook working, this time along the roots of the mangroves, I made a cast that landed almost perfectly where I wanted it. Almost. When the fly was inches from where I planned, the leader kicked it around and put the fly a few inches around the other side of a mangrove root. I was lucky to nurse it back around the root without getting it snagged and I did so without spooking the snook. My recast repeated the same error almost exactly. Fcuk!!! Unbelievably, I once again teased it around, and when clear, I let it sink. The snook, which was all kinds of curious as to what was going on, came up and nonchalantly inhaled the fly.


When the snook felt the prick of the barb it went partially airborne. It stuck its head out of the water and shook like a dog with a rat. Then it did it again. It sounded like an eggbeater that has been lifted too high out of the bowl. When that did not work, it changed course and dove for the mangrove roots. I dropped the rod and came tight to the fish with the flyline clenched in my fist. The leader parted, and all was quiet again, except for my heart. The sandpaper-like lips of the snook had worn through the 40# bite tippet. That whole scenario took less than a minute.


Such is snook fishing. And such is my casting. The good news is I now have a month or two to practice before the snook come out of their wintertime, tight-lipped funk.